The tell-tale tits of Parliament

Cautious bureaucrats try to avoid possible controversy!

Hell that ain’t news. Not even remotely newsworthy. But fear not, NZPA are on the job: “Inland Revenue canned a KiwiSaver brochure because of fears it would be used for electioneering, despite at the time saying it was pulled for commercial reasons.”

In today’s Parliamentary Questions, National’s Bill English fed off some presumably leaked emails by IRD officials about departmental promotional material. Officials had earlier told the Herald that they had dropped plans to produce a leaflet because it wasn’t needed. If there is any news story it’s that officials lied to the news media.

So it turns out that “the brochures were pulled because they were deemed to be too political.” At least that’s the spin the NZPA puts on it. The email said, “I remain concerned that in the current environment it (the KiwiSaver brochure) leans too far towards the promotional,” which is not the same thing.

I’m not surprised, after the incredible media beat-up of a quick, off the top of his head response by Mike Williams — without the chance to think things through — that officials didn’t want to risk being caught up in a political brawl.

Look, if they wanted excitement they wouldn’t be bureaucrats, would they?! No, they’d be mercenaries in West Africa, or smuggling drugs or whatever. But the IRD?

The most revealing email is adduced late in the NZPA piece:

“We should be even more wary about producing material such as the household flier when we know that the Opposition will be scrutinising all such activity extremely closely.”

I read that as the bureaucrats simply not wanting to take a risk of something being construed as political, for political advantage. But that would spoil what the NZPA seems to think is a worthwhile story.

Oh, and Justice Minister King produced some “unauthorised” material “paid for by taxpayers’ money” and distributed by National at recent Field Days. She went on to admonish the National Party for their hypocrisy and for being more interested in being the “the tell-tale tit of Parliament than they are in getting on and having an election campaign, fair and square.”

But that doesn’t fit the narrative, so it’s not news. Can you blame left-wingers for thinking that the press are biased against them when it spins thus?

Elsewhere on the blogosphere… Prog Blog demolish the Herald’s coverage of National’s attempts to stifle government press releases. It starts with the observation “What a disgusting, sinister, unethical and trashy excuse for a newspaper the Herald is,” and goes from there.

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3 Responses to “The tell-tale tits of Parliament”

  1. MacDoctor Says:

    I’d like to point out that Mike Williams was not castigated for his injudicious remarks at a conference, nor for his lying about it – he was crucified for lying about it on national television and being caught.

    Politics. Gotta love it.

    And the EFA is such a badly constructed piece of legislation, you can hardly blame National for making whoopee with it – the phrases “manna from heaven” and “shooting fish in a barrel” come to mind. I think prog blog is being overly precious and somewhat rabid in their assessment of National’s actions and the Herald’s coverage. What were they expecting? After all, neither National nor the Herald had anything good to say about what was, in reality, a rather vindictive and self-serving piece of legislation. Hardly surprising that National is now being both vindictive and self-serving back. Now you know why it is not a good idea to introduce partisan politics into the electoral system.

    Hopefully, when the EFA is repealed, a decent consensus-based piece of legislation will take it’s place.

    But I’m not holding my breath…

  2. jafapete Says:

    Thanks Mac.
    I’m inclined to agree with the overall direction that you’re taking here, until you characterise the EFA as “vindictive and self-serving”. The concerns arising out of the events exposed in the Hollow Men were genuine.

    I’d like to think that we could have a consensus on this, but (partial) state funding has been suggested for some time — since the 1980s in my experience. National has opposed it because of its advantage as natural political home for big business, forcing other parties to rely on other sources. And the rest is history.

    Many other democracies have laws for election funding and spending. Why can’t we?

  3. MacDoctor Says:

    I found the Hollow Men much the same as Ian Wishart’s Absolute Power – a few good points surrounded by a large doses of paranoia! I like the idea of transparency in funding but I think the EFA is absurdly controlling, in this regard. That it is also slanted directly against the National party specifically is indisputable – hence the “vindictive” label. The retrospective legalising of the use of parliamentary funds wins Labour the “self-serving” award.

    I really don’t think that you can effectively buy the vote no matter how much money you spend on an election (unless its very marginal). I’m reminded of Ross Perot trying to buy the American presidency and failing miserably. You have to have traction with the voters, otherwise your advertising makes no difference.

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